Is anyone immune to the over-indulgence of the holidays? How can we not partake in the host of goodies that appear just about everywhere we look? We are invited to holiday parties and family gatherings, or we may be traveling from coast to coast. There is nothing about the holidays that says “routine.” So, what can we do to feel good about all those extra calories and scrumptious treats that are passing through our lips and into our guts?
Well, I’m thinking polyphenols.
Simply stated, polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found in plant foods.
Towards the end of the 20th century, epidemiological studies and associated meta-analyses strongly suggested that long term consumption of diets rich in plant polyphenols offered some protection against the development of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, and neurodegenerative diseases. (1)
Acting as an antioxidant, polyphenols are abundant in our food supply, and more than 8000 have been identified. In addition to offering protection against conditions like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, polyphenols may also reduce inflammation, which we know is the root cause of many chronic health problems.
With so many choices of foods that contain polyphenols, it will be pretty simple to find something to feel good about this holiday season.
Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes usually make a pretty hearty appearance at holiday meals. Even though a sweet potato pie or glazed yams may have some sugar content, you can feel a little better about the polyphenols you are getting.
Fruit – Don’t forget the cranberry sauce, which is high in polyphenols along with apples, dates, and oranges. In general, the darker the skin, the higher the polyphenol content.
Spices and Herbs– Most all of us find ourselves in the kitchen during the holidays. Tossing in spices and herbs high in polyphenols is super-easy. Pies and cookies can use some added cinnamon, cloves, or peppermint. Turkey can be seasoned with celery seed, rosemary, thyme, or sage. And of course, herbal tea is always a great choice at the end of a heavy meal.
Chocolate – The darker, the better, always choose chocolate that is at least 70% cacao. For an added boost, chocolate enhanced with blueberries or orange peel will provide even greater benefits.
Wine – If you’re going to have that second glass of wine, make sure it is red. Red wine has 10-100 times the polyphenols of white or rose wine.
Nuts – Bring on the nuts! Pecans, walnuts, cashews, pistachios are all excellent sources of polyphenols. They are great alone or added to salads, desserts, or main dishes.
I know most of us will be tempted to veer off our routines and dietary restrictions during the holiday season. However, it’s easy to load up on polyphenols and receive that little boost of antioxidant goodness. When someone asks you what else you want on your plate, just say, “Pass the polyphenols, please.”